The vast expansion of economic activity beginning in the twentieth century and continuing today is the predominant cause of the environmental decline that has occurred to date worldwide. This activity is consuming vast quantities of resources from the environment and returning to the environment vast quantities of waste products. The damages are already huge and are on a path to be ruinous in the future. Yet the world economy, now increasingly integrated and globalized, is poised for unprecedented growth. The engine of this growth is modern capitalism: The worldwide commitment to economic growth at almost any cost; enormous investment in technologies designed with little regard for the environment; powerful corporate interests whose overriding objective is to grow by generating increasingly greater profit, including profit from avoiding the environmental impact and cleanup costs they create; governments that are either yielding or promoting corporate interests and the growth imperative; rampant consumerism spurred by sophisticated advertising; economic activity is so large in scale that its impact may undermine the planet's ability to sustain life unless something is immediately done. This chapter explores the fundamental factors responsible for this growth imperative, which led to this pathetic situation and then suggests a future remedy to emerge from this state. After a brief introduction to ecology, economy, and economic growth and ecosystem concepts, the effect of economic activities on the global ecological situation is assessed. Poverty and population growth are discussed as drivers of social unsustainability. The concept of Sustainable Development is then introduced and the compatibility of a market-based capitalist economic system with sustainability is reviewed. Several reforms/alternatives to the present economic system proposed in the literature are discussed to promote sustainability. The case of intergenerational equity and discounting the future is critically discussed in the light of systems thinking. Recent advances in hierarchical systems approach concepts in systems theory are employed to argue against the economic growth concept of the capitalist economic system. After that, the cause of all the ills - the built-in usurious system in the capitalist economy - is discussed in greater detail. Before concluding with future directions, the general belief in science and technology that "science can save the future" that it has the ability to provide humanity with the knowledge and understanding to manage Earth's natural resources is critically discussed and the technological phenomenon is reviewed under the light of sustainability. Finally, the concept of a "fair and just" economic system is introduced for sustainable development of humanity and future directions are given for its realization.
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